August 22, 2009
On Friday, Aug. 21, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly approved a series of changes in ministry policies that open the ministry of the church to gay and lesbian pastors and other professional workers living in committed relationships.Following these historic votes, Bishop Claire S. Burkat issued the following pastoral message to the Synod:
Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment, and the second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself" Matthew 22:36-39
After years of deliberation, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has adopted ministry policies, which I support, and that will allow congregations to recognize and welcome the spiritual gifts of gay and lesbian leaders. As we attempt to live into a process that, for some, will be a welcome change, and for others will be a profound disappointment, I pray the Holy Spirit will guide us and bless us.
Our church has accomplished a remarkable process of careful, respectful, and sensitive listening, even though this issue is very difficult to reconcile. For this reason, we agreed as an assembly to commit ourselves "to bear one another’s burdens, love the neighbor, and respect the bound consciences of all." It is evident that faithful people are not in agreement on the issue of recognizing, supporting, and holding accountable lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships and whether these people should be allowed to serve as rostered leaders of the church. We have agreed in principle that no congregation will be forced to recognize same gender partnerships or call ministers in them, but those wishing to recognize such partnerships and call people who are in them will be allowed to do so.
We have agreed to find ways to allow congregations who choose to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships. Further, we have agreed to find a way for such people to serve as rostered leaders in this church.
This is a change in our church culture that will take time, patience, and discernment to live into. There are congregations that are not ready or willing to accept this change. The synod will not impose any leader on a congregation.
As one of the first women ordained in the Lutheran church in the 1970’s, I know what it is like to be excluded from opportunities for ministry. I know from experience that change and acceptance take time, patience, and openness to new expressions of ministry. Once again the church is challenged to live into a significant change. My prayer is for us to move forward with love and respect for one another.
+ Bishop Claire S. Burkat
21 August 2009
Presiding Bishop’s pastoral reflection
Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson gave pastoral remarks to the church at the end of the Assembly’s plenary session yesterday.
"Those deeply disappointed today will have in this church the expectation and the freedom to continue to admonish and to teach. And so too those that have experienced reconciliation today, you are called to humility, you are called to clothe yourselves with love. But we are all called to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, remembering again and again that we are called in the one body."